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Baltimore Police Officers Learn To Help Those With Mental Illness

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Before graduating the police academy, every city officer will have the BEST training.  It’s the department’s method to help people with mental illness. 

Gigi Barnett has more.

The Baltimore police department’s BEST training is short for Behavioral Emergency Services Team.  It teaches new recruits exactly how to deal with people with mental illness.  The training is now required for all new recruits.

“When you’re dealing with someone with mental illness, if you don’t approach them in a certain way, it can turn very violent very quickly,” said Deputy Major Justin Reynolds, Baltimore police department.

The city says that has led to numerous arrests.

“Some people are afraid, that’s it, [that] they’re going to be in the padded room.  I think if they feel at ease…we’re just here to talk to you; we’re not here to lock you up,” said one trainee.

The first step in the BEST training is to know what to look for.

“A lot of times, people with mental illness act in a way that might get a normal person taken to jail,” Reynolds said.

The second is to call for backup. 

The training started as a partnership between several mental health organizations and the department. 

In addition to de-escalating what could become a violent situation, officers also learn where to find help for people with mental illnesses.

“Hopefully, the community will see that we really care.  We’re not in the business of arresting people who actually need hospital help or medical care,” said Lt. Alonso Moreland, Baltimore Police Department.

The city’s police department is the only large-scale Baltimore agency that has the BEST program in its entry-level training.

The police department has used BEST to train veteran officers about mental illness since 2004.

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